In our next series of blogs, we will discuss the concept of outreach and how programs can use it to improve not only their volumes, but also their outcomes. Outreach can be simplistically defined as the act of reaching out to a group. It may also be defined as a systematic attempt to provide services beyond conventional limits to a particular segment of the community. In this blog, we will concentrate on the former definition, namely, reaching out to different groups to grow our program.
Outreach at its basic level seeks to let others know what services we can provide and how we may be able to better care for their patients than another provider, hospital or program. Targeted outreach can be seminars directed to potential patients, clinical updates directed toward healthcare providers or visits to providers’ offices. We seek to establish ourselves as the expert so members of the groups we target preferentially refer patients to us. Whether we are talking to a provider or group of providers, a patient advocacy group, a dialysis center or a smaller hospital, we offer more than information about the disease process. We also offer education about better techniques and ways of caring for their patients. If there are specific administrative or financial considerations for a particular area, these topics can be covered as well.
While our primary goal may to increase volume, say of transplant, this growth will also very likely result in increased activity of ancillary departments and other services in our institution as well. For example, a liver transplant program may increase the activity of a hepatology hepatitis C clinic or hepatobiliary surgical practice. Before we launch an outreach program, we must first ensure that we are capable of handling an increase in activity across all departments that are likely to be impacted. Considerations such as staffing numbers, adequacy of training, clinic bandwidth and data management must be thought out in advance to avoid the risk of referring physicians and institutions being dissatisfied with the patient experience and our service. The adage that you only get one chance at making a first impression is so true in this circumstance. You can claim to have the best service and best message. But if you are unable to deliver on it, your efforts will be for naught.
Our next blog will talk about strategies to capitalize on your educational effort and some next steps to expand your service area.